I don’t remember many losses where the current Nebraska staff seemed more upbeat than they were following Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl loss to Georgia. While the staff and players largely dismissed the notion of a moral victory, it was still clear that Nebraska was happy with how it played against one of the SEC’s best.
Prior to the game, we posted three sets of players, stats, and keys to watch. Here’s how Nebraska did:
THREE KEYS TO A NEBRASKA WIN
1) Stop the run – Nebraska did pretty well here. The Bulldogs had 162 yards on 38 attempts (4.3 yards per carry). Georgia came into the game averaging 4.92. Freshman running back Todd Gurley finished with 127 yards, just three yards short of his career-high but overall Nebraska did a decent job limiting the run.
2) Stay on schedule – For the most part, Nebraska succeeded on first down particularly in the first half. The numbers dipped a bit in the second, but this was an impressive performance from offensive coordinator Tim Beck. Nebraska had a talented Georgia defense worn out and the Huskers were able to avoid a bunch of third-and-longs. All in all, there is good reason for excitement in year three under Beck.
3) Play with an edge – Nebraska wanted the best, got the best, and stood toe-to-toe with Georgia most of the way. It looked a little dicey early as Georgia jumped out to a 9-0 lead that should’ve been 14-0 if not for a lucky safety. I wouldn’t say the Huskers came out with their hair on fire, but they weren’t flat either. Call it a wash.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
1) C/G Cole Pensick – It’s tough to assess line play unless you focus all your attention on it, but the fact that Pensick wasn’t too noticeable in relief of Justin Jackson is a pretty good sign. An even better one: At one point late in the game, a Georgia beat writer said “(NG Kwame) Geathers is getting manhandled.” I’ll take his word for it and say that was a surprisingly good performance from Pensick.
2) DT Cameron Meredith – In his final game as a Husker, Meredith had perhaps his best game of the season in emergency duty at defensive tackle. The senior was fourth on the team with 5 tackles and had a sack and a tackle for a loss.
3) QB Taylor Martinez – For most of the first half, Martinez was outplaying Georgia’s Aaron Murray. His numbers dipped a bit in the second half but he still looked like one of the best players on the field in a talent-rich game. Martinez had 250 yards of total offense in a performance that can definitely provide some momentum headed into the offseason.
THREE STATS TO WATCH
1) Aaron Murray’s interceptions – Nebraska got two in the first half, becoming the third team to pick Murray off multiple times this season. But more notable were the plays Nebraska didn’t make. Georgia repeatedly converted on third-and-long and on a couple occasions the Huskers had guys in coverage man-to-man but didn’t make the play on what were essentially 50-50 balls. If you’re looking for a reason for the loss, that was a big part of it.
2) Fumbles – Nebraska only had one, and even forced a three-and-out immediately afterwards, but Abduallh’s third quarter fumble seemed to kill the Huskers’ momentum. Still, given how good Georgia was at forcing fumble and how bad Nebraska was at hanging on to the ball, one fumble should probably be considered a win.
3) Yards per play – The Huskers finished with 5.6 yards per play which is slightly above average against the Dawgs this season. Overall in 2012, Nebraska averaged better than 5 yards per play in 13 out of 14 games this season with the wintry game in Iowa City the only exception.